September: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest stage plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

photo by Carol Rosegg, from the Vineyard Theatre production of “Wig Out!”


 Sept. 9-25/ Go behind the scenes of the world of drag and disco in Wig Out! at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, where a Greek chorus will guide you through the House of Light and the men — and women — who frequent there. When the play debuted in 2008, The New York Times called it “not a cross-dressing revue or comedy of the sort familiar to downtown audiences. Instead it is a thorough and original anatomy of an alternative universe.” The show, written by Tarell Alvin McCraney and directed by Tomé Cousin, is recommended for audiences aged 18+. (The Rauh Theatre, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland; 412/392-8000,

Sept. 29-Oct. 30/ The world’s longest running musical and an off-Broadway sensation will be staged at Pittsburgh Public Theater. The Fantasticks is the allegorical story of Matt and Luisa, two young sweethearts dreaming fancifully about their future, and their fathers who scheme to unite them by pretending to feud. When a bandit comes to town and shows them all how much “more” there is in the world, they’re led astray until they realize what they had all along. It’s funny, sweet and endearing — everything you want in a night of musical theater — and the Public’s stage is ideal for the show’s sparse setting, which primarily consists of the backyards of the two lovers. (O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Downtown; 412/316-1600,

Sept. 1-17/ After a difficult season at the Stephen Foster Memorial at the University of Pittsburgh, PICT Classic Theatre moves to the Union Project in Highland Park for its 2016-17 season “Classics in the Raw.” Kicking things off is Shirley Valentine, a one-woman show by Willy Russell about a disgruntled housewife in Liverpool. When her friend wins two tickets for a trip to Crete, Shirley packs her bags, leaves a note and sets off. The trip is so life-altering, Shirley may not return home. The play was nominated for a Tony Award after it premiered in 1989. (Union Project, 801 N. Negley Ave., Highland Park; 412/561-6000,

• Bill Miller, “Chimes of Freedom.” Vintage linoleum

photos courtesy pca

Through Oct. 30/ Wander around a 12-sided wunderkammer, the focal point for Richard Pell’s Artist of the Year exhibition, The Myth of the Great Outright Extraordinary! at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. In addition to this supersized cabinet of curiosities — its contents include shards from a crashed plane and a miniature inscription of the Lord’s Prayer crammed onto a dime — the show offers other amazing sights (some require 3-D glasses) and sounds collected and creatively re-envisioned. Something of a wunderkind, the 30-something honoree is an associate professor of art at Carnegie Mellon University, a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow and founder of the Center for PostNatural History. “Above all I strive to be a storyteller,” he says. “I collect something — an object, a recording, an idea — when I have a strong suspicion that it will one day tell me a story.” Emerging Artist of the Year Sarika Goulatia presents “Dressed with D.R.E.S.S.,” a title inspired by a personal reaction to a sulfa drug. The sculptor and installation artist, a CMU grad, creates works that mutate and dissolve — a reference to the fragility of human experience — and incorporates reflective metals, mirrors, glass, pins and ice. Also on view is surface | material, with Ron Copeland, Ryder Henry, Bill Miller and Grace Summanen, showcasing art created from recyclables and found objects, with a focus on surface treatment. It’s a component of Pittsburgh’s Re:NEW Festival, a salute to “creative reuse, transformation and sustainability.” (Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 6300 Fifth Ave., Point Breeze; 412/361-0873,;

Through Oct. 16/ T.S. Eliot talked about the imperative of exploration, and the irony of a cyclical journey that takes us back to where we began, when we will know that place for the first time. That poetic vision also might describe the artistic journey of painter and printmaker Frances Venardos Gialamas, who has exhibited her work in western Pennsylvania for more than a half-century. Chronicles of a Chatham Art Major evokes her 1958 debut exhibit as an art major at then-Chatham College. This complementary show spins full-circle back to Chatham University, a tribute to a creative legacy fueled by passion, persistence and exploration. (Chatham University Art Gallery, Woodland Hall, Chapel Hill Road, Shadyside; 412/365-1106,

Through Sept. 23/ Using specially designed brushes and tools to manipulate his oils, Pittsburgh painter Thomas Bigatel embarks on a quest “to create depth, translucency and illuminating intensity” in his (mostly abstract) work. That informs his new show, “Giving Up the Ghost (and select visual reflections),” inspired by ideas related to the origins of life, human experience and even the universe. His goal: “to create a flowing synchronicity between a vigorous energy and a peaceful serenity.”
Also on view: “Understanding Drips: A Dr. Armbruster Adventure in Research,” a humorous — and skeptical — adventure by multidisciplinary Pennsylvania artist Keith Garubba. In his show, he attempts to visually answer this question: “What happens when we over-aestheticize our scientific pursuits? What happens when we overanalyze our artistic creations?” Don’t overlook the answers found in a variety of media, including examples from Dr. A’s experiments. (BoxHeart Gallery, 4523 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; 412/687-8858,

Through Oct. 9/ Summer is over, but you might retain the memory of those monumental dandelions at this year’s Three Rivers Arts Festival. That installation was the creation of Pittsburgh artist Carin Mincemoyer, featured in “Aqua Icons and Arboreal Geometric,” which offers another take on nature. This show explores our relationship with the natural world and artificial environments, and with natural and human-made elements. Found and recycled materials are incorporated into her sculpture. Several pieces are composed of artist-altered tree branches, while others consist of repurposed mirrors and vibrantly painted panels. (Society for Contemporary Craft, BNY Mellon Satellite Gallery, 500 Grant St., Downtown; 412/261-7003,



photo by frank walsh


 Sept. 7-11/ Choreographer Beth Corning, director of Corningworks, rolls out an upgraded version of Remains (2013), a multidisciplinary dance-theater solo created for The Glue Factory Project in collaboration with award-winning director Dominique Serrand. Via movement and text, Corning taps universal themes to explore what makes memories indelibly memorable. The current incarnation sports new costumes and sets by award-winning designer Sonya Berlovitz. (New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side; 412/320-4610,

Sept. 24/ Bodiography Contemporary Ballet Company, recently appointed as the resident ballet troupe at Butler Community College, takes to the Succop Theater stage for an evening of premieres. Expect choreography by New York University’s James Martin; the director of Warped Dance Company in Wisconsin, Maria Hackbarth; and company members Nicole Flasch Jamison and Carrie Petrak. Repertory works by artistic director Maria Caruso complete the program. (107 College Drive, Butler; 724/284-8505,

Sept. 28/ The Russian Grand Ballet, a touring troupe led by Vladimir Troshchenko, offers Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty (1890). Charles Perrault’s tale of true love overcoming evil frames the narrative while the culminating wedding celebration of Aurora and her prince embraces beloved fairy-tale characters. Renaissance-inspired costumes enhance the three-act production, performed to P.I. Tchaikovsky’s score. (Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown; 412/456-6666,

Sept. 30-Oct. 2/ Texture Contemporary Ballet presents Impulse. The six-year-old troupe led by award-winning dancer/choreographer Alan Obuzor and associate director Kelsey Bartman is known for presenting mixed-repertory programs of original works created by the directors and guest choreographers. (New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side; 412/320-4610,


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